Editorial: Only Time Will Tell

I seem to talk about the line-of-duty deaths of firefighters in so many of my editorials each year. I have seen a lot of death on the fireground and so have too many firefighters. That’s the business we’re in, but the outcome doesn’t always have to be so bad. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation is sponsoring a series of seminars to go further in depth on this subject than ever before. The next session will be in Baltimore at the Firehouse Expo, where the NFFF will discuss structural firefighting and areas that can and need to be improved.

Something has to be done to reverse this terrible toll. Already this year, more than 50 firefighters have been killed in the line of duty. No one wants or plans to go to work or to their volunteer commitment and lose their lives. This year’s figures are staggering. There a few things that may help: continued training, reducing speeds, stopping at stop signs and traffic signals, knowing whether a building can be saved – and even whether you should be in there at all.

Are you going to get killed by a hazard that another department somewhere in America has already faced? There are no new ways in which firefighters are dying, only the same ways over and over again. Think about what you can do to reduce your risks. Do you teach your newest members all that you can? We have to take the lessons from the past and apply them to the future. It is necessary, but a shame, that we must have a guide to firefighter funerals. I still cannot use all the names that come in for dedications in each month’s issue of Firehouse®. Only time will tell.

We present a series of articles this month dealing with firefighter safety and tactics. Former Seattle Chief Gary Morris takes a look at a series of live-fire tests involving lightweight truss systems, which he calls “a killer of firefighters.” We all know that the construction industry has been using smaller, lightweight materials for years. When I was a fire chief, I recall asking my fire inspector about marking the truss roofs and floors on the outside of the buildings in our response area. He said there are so many buildings with trusses that it would be easier to mark the ones that don’t have them.

Retired FDNY Lieutenant Joe Berry takes a look at an alarming trend around the country. In “Dollar Store Dangers: Are Firefighters Lives Worth Only a Buck?” Berry reports that this industry is one of the fastest-growing businesses today. These stores may contain a number of hazards that all firefighters should be aware of. Access, overstocking and ventilation are only a few of the potential areas of concern. Berry, who conducts extensive research for his articles, traveled to several states and found the same hazards in all of them.

While you are using your mask at either of the two previous types of structures, you will be required to manage your air. A group of four firefighters from Seattle discuss “The Myths of Air Management” in which they teach you that air management techniques are a new “basic skill” that all firefighters must learn and practice. Failure to do so will quickly take you to the point of no return. Philadelphia Deputy Chief Jim Smith looks at trench cuts and their importance to defensive roof operations. And photographer Keith Cullom was on hand documenting a hazardous materials incident in California in which responders using high-tech equipment operated in the “hot zone.”

Atlanta Fire Chief Dennis Rubin reports on Fireman’s Fund Insurance, which donated over a half million dollars worth of smoke detectors as part of a “giving back” effort by the company. Studies have found that while many homes have smoke detectors, many detectors do not have a working battery. Atlanta firefighters even improvised and made up kits to help them install the detectors easier. Hopefully this will make the citizens of Atlanta safer.

We are proud to present Part 1 of the National Run Survey. The statistical information has been one of the most well-read features we publish each year. We are pleased to report participation from cities in every state as well as nine Canadian cities in this year’s survey. We would like to give a tip of the helmet to Elizabeth Friszell-Neroulas and Kevin Roche, who spend many hours compiling the information. Besides being popular with our readers, many cities and the news media look forward to the latest data.